24 January 2022, 07:00 AM
  • Want to ensure your customers keep coming back for more? Discover cheese pairing advice from Morgan McGlynn, owner of Cheeses of Muswell Hill
The rules of cheese pairing

After 15 years of having the cheese shop, many of my customers have been visiting our little Aladdin’s cave of cheese on a weekly basis for years, so the importance of keeping the selection of cheese fresh is more crucial than ever, making sure we have the best new cheeses from the UK and across the globe.

Another way of making sure our customers’ cheeseboards are always interesting when plating for guests is pairings. Selling fantastic accompaniments for cheese, whether this is a fresh chilli jam, fig cake, fantastic chutney or fudge. A good cheese pairing can take your cheese selection to a flavour sensation like no other.

This is also a great way to upsell products that work perfectly together; as a cheesemonger customers are looking for our wealth of knowledge and experience to guide them toward the best cheese selection.

Not only that, from a business point of view, as a retailer, upselling items doesn’t only help with the end of day taking but offers customers an additional reason to return and look for further pairing advice.

It almost becomes a habit that once our customers have got to the till, without thought the next sentence out of our mouth is, “would you like any biscuits or accompaniments with that”. Sparking the idea in the customer’s head and offering the chance to showcase our range of incredible chutney, fruit pastes, pickles etc.

We have now taken this one step further and have started a monthly cheeseboard pairing class, where customers come to learn how to pair cheeses perfectly over a glass of bubbly.

One of the reasons why we are so frequently asked about what works well on a cheeseboard is because cheese pairing can sometimes seem like a daunting task, but a few simple rules can help to pair your way to the perfect cheeseboard. Some of the most common questions we get from budding cheese enthusiasts at our shop are about cheese pairing, so here are some top tips to help customers navigate their way through the world of pairing.

The only rule of cheese pairing is that there are no rules. Your taste buds are truly your best guide and even the most unlikely pairings will delight some cheese lovers. I adore a strong blue cheese like Picon with rich dark chocolate but I am aware this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

With that said, we have some basic cheese pairing guidelines to help you when indecision strikes. When you match the strengths, you get to experience a blend of flavours rather than an intensity of just one.

One of the first questions to ask when pairing cheese with chutneys, pickles, fruit or veg, or really anything is: “do the strengths of the flavours match?”

A tongue tingling blue is going to require an equally assertive pairing – lest your pairing gets overwhelmed by the cheese. Similarly, if you have a light pear paste, you’ll want a delicate cheese to match, such as a sweet, light ewes’ milk cheese like Ossau Iraty.

Bridges can help connect two otherwise contrasting flavours. These are ingredients you can use to create a stronger connection between cheese and accompaniments of your choice.

For example, one of our favourite flavour bridges that work with a variety of cheeses is honey. Honey is a perfect flavour bridge between a salty, briny cheese like Feta and sweet port wine. Honey and cheese happens to be one of my favourite pairings. Honey can elevate the flavour of salty cheese and the result is sensational. In its many forms, honey works so well on a cheese board, and it pairs much like with wine or fruit – the key is matching the intensity; a strong cheese needs a full-flavoured honey.

Opposites attract, and sometimes the best pairings are the ones that draw distinctly different flavours. I love pairing a creamy, salty, and tart blue cheese with a cherry compote. Partner these and you’ve got a perfect pairing.

As a cheesemonger, we are not only the go-to expert behind the counter at your local cheese shop, we can also be the ultimate resource to help you discover your next favourite cheese pairing. Assuring that the customer gets the best possible cheeseboard, and in turn keeping them wanting to come back for more.